Elephant translator turns human language into pachyderm-talk

Learn how to say "hello" or "let's party" in elephant with the Hello in Elephant online translator.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read

This elephant will help you experience the pachyderm's language.

Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

How do you say "I'm hungry" in elephant? It sounds a bit like a squeak combined with a grunt. 

You, too, can learn a bit about speaking elephant with the Hello in Elephant translation website from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, an organization dedicated to elephant conservation in Kenya. The organization is known for its elephant rescue and rehabilitation program, which has hand-raised over 150 orphaned baby elephants.  

The translator accepts voice, text or an emoji. Your best bet is to use simple phrases or words, like "I'm happy" or "Let's party." Hello in Elephant then delivers a video with an animation and a real elephant call. 

The sounds used in the translator come from the ElephantVoices project, which studies elephant communication and cognition and maintains a database of elephant calls.

The translator is a delightful site, but it might not make you fluent in elephant. There's more to elephant communication than vocals. They also use a lot of body language. 

"From crossing their back legs to draping their trunks over their tusks, over the past 40 years, we've learnt how to spot when an elephant is feeling relaxed and content," the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust said in a Facebook post promoting Hello in Elephant earlier this week.

So, how do you say "hello" in elephant? It takes a bit of a roar, a dash of a grunt and something that sounds like a loud purr all rolled into one greeting. It's going to take some practice to re-create this with your human vocal cords.

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